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Early morning, Innsbruck. While at home at this hour I would probably start my morning with a cup of coffee, I find myself running in the mountains, passing a beautiful castle. To my right is Anika – a Microbiologist from Germany. To my left running is Thomas – an Astrophysicist from the Netherlands. With us running are six other guys, and all of us know this is only the beginning of an intense day, in a very intensive weekend, which is only the first part of a very unique experience.
Let’s go back. Around the end of last year, after graduating from the International Space University, I found out about a very unique organization – the Austrian Space Forum. A call for the next class of Analogue Astronauts was just released, and after reading about this small, but very important part field of analogue missions – I decided to apply.
As expected from an organization that put a goal for itself to train the next generation of analog astronauts – the selection process was tough and demanding. Competing with around 200 more applicants – each of us had to prove itself worthy to start the training, and skilled enough to take place in a future mission. I was happy to discover I passed the first phase of selection – and now I was required to fly to Innsbruck – for the final selection phase. I joined a group of 20 individuals, and through a very demanding weekend – we underwent a series of tests and missions – both individually and as a group – and we had to prove ourselves worthy of being selected as the lucky 6 that will be the class of 2019. We were tested on mental skills, communication, all sorts of physical aspects, and especially how we operate in a group, lead when needed and solve problems efficiently. After this weekend I thought it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I had no idea what was coming next.
About 2 weeks after returning to Israel – I got a phone call from the head of the local Mars simulation organization. “Good morning”, he said, “you have passed the selection. Congratulations. Be prepared to start the training”. And just like that – started one of the most unique, exciting and rewarding journeys of my life.
We were asked to report to the OeWF suitlab in Innsbruck on April, to start what is called “Block 1” – the first of a series of 5 long weekends – packed and intense – that together form the “Basic training” of being an analog astronaut. After which – the lucky 6 that will be selected to be the crew for the mission will undergo a specific, more dedicated mission training.
Block 1 (and as we learned to realize – all of the future blocks) was a very intensive 4 days. When we got the schedule, we thought that there might be some mistake – it didn’t seem to have breaks or empty slots between the sessions. We quickly realized that this is by design. We were supposed to turn in 5 weekends from “regular” individuals into a well-trained, efficient analog astronauts, and there was no time to waste.
After a quick introduction and snacks, we dove right into the material. Lessons about space missions, hands-on training with spacesuits, communications, media training – we went through all of these aspects in a few packed days. The other people in the class quickly became your very best partners in this crazy journey. You get to know each one of them, work closely with them, and after a very short time I understood exactly why each and every one of them was chosen. You start to understand how skilled and professionals those individuals are, and you quickly start to think of them as your mission partners.
As stated in the schedule – every morning starts with a one hour run in the mountains. Along with my class mates, my new partners to this journey – we run together as a pack towards the summit. We know that we also run together as a pack towards the rest of the training blocks – and towards our dream of one day becoming analog astronauts of the OeWF. And I know that this is the best group I can run with, and on the third pass around this gorgeous castle, when the exhaustion starts to creep in – I lift my head, look around, and feel lucky to be a part of this journey.
Author: Liad Yosef, Israel
- 15.10.2020 - 15.11.2020: AMADEE-20 Mars Simulation Israel
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